Mobile phones have been around since the 1980s cellular technology has grown from a tool only available to the super-rich to a communications lifeline most of us can't live without. The battle for this lucrative market left four major carriers in a dominant role, with AT&T and T-Mobile on the GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) standard and Sprint and Verizon using CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technologies. There are different types of mobile phone signals and many factors that can affect signal coverage. Below we explore some of the other technologies used on mobile devices:-


E in Mobile Signal Letter E stands for EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) or eGPRS (Enhanced Global Packet Radio Services). This technology lies somewhere in between 2G and 3G technology. EDGE is faster than GPRS but still not good enough to browse the Internet. It takes a lot of time in loading websites when your signal bar is showing an E letter alongside. Typically EDGE provides a data rate of 400 kbit/second but in ideal conditions data rate of up to I Mbit/second can also be achieved.

In this day and age, E is one of the weakest data signals you can get on your phone: E came at the latter end of 2G, making it slower than 3G but faster than GPRS.

E uses an older infrastructure, so whenever you’re in an area where you can only get E you can expect things like to be much slower. If the signal bars are low, you may struggle to load anything at all and there’s no point attempting to watch a YouTube video.

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Moving onto 3.5G, we have HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) and the letter "H" next to our signal bar. HSPA is part of two mobile protocols, HSDPA and HSUPA. It extended the performance of existing 3G networks.

That means we can have a maximum speed of 14.4 Mbps, which is a rather impressive jump from the previous speeds. With HSPA we can browse the Internet with ease, watch videos, or stream media without any problems.

H+ - HSPA+

H+ refers to Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+). There are five releases of this technology, each of which provides significantly greater download speeds than the previous version.

Release 6 brought a maximum speed of 14.4 Megabits per second, Release 7 upped that to 21.1 Megabits per second, Release 8 increased it further to 42.2 Megabits per second, Release 9 took it to 84.4 Megabits per second, before it topped out with Release 10 at a maximum speed of 168.8 Megabits per second.

As you can see, the technology evolved very quickly here, but it’s important to remember that one will rarely see these speeds during normal usage. This is the fastest form of connectivity that most people can get right now since global 4G networks are still limited in availability.

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0G - Zeroth Generation

0G-Mobile radiotelephone also known as “0G”. Mobile radio telephone systems preceded modern cellular mobile telephony technology. Since they were the predecessors of the first generation of cellular telephones, these systems are sometimes retroactively referred to as pre-cellular (or sometimes zero-generation) systems developed in 1970s. ARP (Autoradiopuhelin) in Finland launched the first open, for-profit mobile phone network in 1971.

In 0g systems, various technologies used are:

PTT (Push to Talk)

MTS (Mobile telephone system)

IMTS (Improved Mobile Telephone Service)

AMTS (Advanced Mobile Telephone system)

OLT (Norwegian for Offentlig Landmobil Telefoni)

PLMT (Public Land Mobile Telephony)

MTD (Mobile Telephony system D)

1G - First Generation

The main technological development that distinguished the First Generation mobile phones from the previous generation was the use of multiple cell sites, and the ability to transfer calls from one site to the next as the user traveled between cells during a conversation. The first commercially automated cellular network (the 1G generation) was launched in Japan by Nippon Telegraph And Telephone (NTT) in 1979.

In 1984, Bell Labs developed modern commercial cellular technology, which employed multiple, centrally-controlled base stations (cell sites), each providing service to a small area (a cell). The cell sites would be set up such that cells partially overlapped. In a cellular system, a signal between a base station (cell site) and a terminal (phone) only needs to be strong enough to reach the two so the same channel can be used simultaneously for separate conversations in different cells. 1G analog mobile phones speed up to 2.4kbps(After Data speed 9.6 to 28kbps.

As the system expanded and neared capacity, the ability to reduce transmission power allowed new cells to be added, resulting in more, smaller cells and thus more capacity.

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2G - Second Generation

2G in Mobile Signal Letter G stands for GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). GPRS is considered to be the second-generation (2G) mobile technology. It is the slowest and oldest among all mobile technologies. It is mainly good enough for sending text messages using apps like WhatsApp. Data transfer rates in GPRS are between 56 and 114 kbit/second.

Second-generation technologies are either time division multiple access (TDMA) or code division multiple access (CDMA). TDMA allows for the division of signals into time slots. CDMA allocates each user a special code to communicate over a multiplex physical channel. Different TDMA technologies are GSM, PDC, iDEN, iS-136.CDMA technology is IS-95.

3G - Third Generation

Technically speaking 3G is a network protocol that refers to the third generation of mobile phone technology and telecommunication equipment which are compatible with the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000) standards stated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The basic requirement for compiling to IMT-2000 standards is that the technology should provide peak data rates of at least 200 kbit/s. It’s worth mentioning that speed isn’t the only criterion for deciding whether the network protocol is 3G or not. 3G isn’t just any high-speed network but a protocol that has its own standards defined under IMT-2000 by ITU.

3G Technology is designed for multimedia communication. It provides services like higher data transfer rates. One of its key visions is to provide seamless global roaming, enabling users to move across borders while using the same number and handset. According to ITU, it is expected that IMT-2000 will provide higher transmission rates: a minimum speed of 2Mbit/s for stationary or walking users, and 348kbit/s for a moving vehicle.

4G/LTE - Long-Term Evolution

LTE/4G in Mobile Signal Stands for the fourth generation of the mobile network and is also called LTE or Long Term Evolution. 4G connection works as good as a wi-fi connection in your home or office. With such a connection you can do everything on your mobile that you can do on your desktop. In 2009, the first commercial LTE deployments took place in Stockholm, Sweden, and Oslo, Norway. 

From the consumer's point of view, 4G is more a marketing term than a technical specification, but carriers feel justified in using the 4G label because it lets the consumer know that he can expect significantly faster data speeds.

When fully implemented, 4G is expected to enable pervasive computing, in which simultaneous connections to multiple high-speed networks will provide seamless handoffs throughout a geographical area. Coverage enhancement technologies such as femtocell and picocell are being developed to address the needs of mobile users in homes, public buildings, and offices, which will free up network resources for mobile users who are roaming or who are in more remote service areas.

4G+/LTE-A - Long-Term Evolution Advanced

This intermediate stage between 4G and 5G, sometimes called 4.5G, offers speeds that can be between two and three times as fast as regular 4G. This is achieved by using multiple 4G signals and antennas together, which is also known as MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technologies. Combined with ‘carrier aggregation', which allows for phones to receive signals from multiple frequencies, you’re off to the races.

5G - Fifth Generation

5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before.

Combining cutting-edge network technology and the very latest research, 5G should offer connections that are multitudes faster than current connections, with average download speeds of around 1GBps expected to soon be the norm.

The networks will help power a huge rise in Internet of Things technology, providing the infrastructure needed to carry huge amounts of data, allowing for a smarter and more connected world.